Desperately Seeking Swallowtails

While doing some weeding the other day, I was pleased to see a Black Swallowtail butterfly – the first one I’ve seen in our own garden this year.


It’s not an exaggeration to say we’ve laid out the welcome mat for the Black Swallowtails. Not only does our yard have an abundance of nectar plants throughout the growing season, but we’ve got lots of the host plants utilized by their  caterpillars.


There’s loads of parsley (Petroselinum crispum) growing in the ground and in pots. I’ve got six foot tall Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) that’s threatening to take over the whole Herb Garden. I would have Dill (Anethum graveolens), but it’s always eaten by the Hoppity Evil Ones, the Cotton-Tailed Destroyers of Worlds.


Anyway, we do have Black Swallowtail caterpillars. I haven’t actually seen them this year, but I’ve seen the aftermath of their snack attacks.

Prunus virginiana’s purple foliage.

We haven’t seen any Eastern Tiger Swallowtails this year, though we have seen them in the past. This spring I planted two native ‘Schubert’ wild cherries (Prunus virginiana). Prunus is one of quite a few genera that serve as host plants for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, including Willows (Salix), Birch (Betula), and Cottonwood (Populus).

Dutchman’s Pipe growing on our back fence.


After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, I finally got a host plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail established: Dutchmans Pipevine (Aristolochia macrophylla). This is the first year it’s gotten to a significant size. I’m trying to grow it up a snag I’ve attached to the back fence.

We’ve never seen any Pipevine Swallowtails, but I hope that changes.

2014-10-20 09.26.15 spicebush fall foliage
Spicebush has nice fall color. 

Another Swallowtail I’ve never seen is the Spicebush Swallowtail. This despite the fact that I’ve had several Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) for seven years at least. Spicebush is a gardenworthy shrub whether the Spicebush Swallowtails show up or not. However, I must admit to feeling a little hurt by their neglect. At least the Black Swallowtails don’t ignore us.

Fortunately, none of these Swallowtails are at risk, but I do wonder why we don’t see more of them in the garden.

Are you seeing many Swallowtails these days?

43 Comments on “Desperately Seeking Swallowtails”

  1. I’ve been seeing black swallowtails here and there (on the Texas coastal plain) — perhaps a half dozen in the wild. Just today, I got my first decent photo of one. It was missing one of its tails, but otherwise looked quite spiffy as it rested on some marsh fleabane.

  2. A few black swallowtails and a few more yellow. Theres practically a wall of fennel in the front garden yet I haven’t seen a caterpillar yet. Could be all the bees and wasps the flowers attract, or hopefully I’m just missing them.

  3. I have seen a number of swallowtails, including the black ones. But not as many as I hope to see soon, as I also have planted a number of host and nectar plants for them. Butterflies seem to increase toward the end of summer here, probably as they begin migration.

  4. I haven’t seen many butterflies this year, period. I finally saw my first Monarch since spring this past week, and yesterday a Tiger Swallowtail came by to visit the coneflowers. Usually, though, we have lots of Black Swallowtails, and I haven’t seen one. I’m hoping maybe they are just late this year? On the other hand, the bird population here is thriving, and if we had any swallowtail cats at all, they may have been devoured by the birds.

  5. Not just a whole lot of any butterflies. Early sprig we had Tigers, Black and Spicebush but none lately. I am afraid it is too dry for them. I am blaming everything on the drought. I have tried to grow Dutchman’s Pipe here. No luck. Seeing your success makes me want to try again. With all your garden has to offer I bet there will soon be those you are trying to lure in.

  6. We’ve seen Monarchs (2 yesterday!), Tiger Swallowtails, and a few days ago, what I believe was a Polygonia interrogationalis, which I have never seen before. I live in far northwest side of Chicago.

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